When we practice tree or other balancing postures in class, there is a very real possibility that we will lose our balance and fall over. Even those of us with great balance occasionally fall over. If you are a regular in class, you have probably heard me say:
“If you fall over, just fall over. Try not to add anything extra to it. Just smile, breathe and then start again.”
What I mean by this is that if you lose your balance, just allow yourself to fall over without adding anything extra like anger, frustration, impatience, etc. It is all too easy when we fall over to mentally berate ourselves, or even express our frustration outwardly with a few choice expletives (believe it or not I’ve heard a fair share of these over the years).
Smiling when you fall over can immediately help you generate some goodwill and compassion toward yourself, and breathing will help you maintain equanimity. Let the falling over be a part of the process... not something that isn’t supposed to happen. Take your time, be in the moment, get grounded, and then start again. In this way you can maintain balance in your mind, even if you temporarily lose it in your body.
Outside of class...
Sometimes we “fall over” in life. Perhaps we lose our temper and say something in anger to someone that we care about, which hurts their feelings. Or we eat too much for lunch or dinner, and then feel lousy afterwards. In both of the above scenarios, it’s quite possible that we were feeling happy and balanced in our mental outlook until some unforeseen circumstance came along and caused us to fall out of balance... out of mental, spiritual and physical harmony.
In these moments it can be helpful to just stop for a moment and recognize what has happened... that we have fallen from a state of feeling balance and harmony. We can take a few deep breaths, as many as it takes, inwardly smile toward ourselves with mindfulness and compassion, and then begin again. We can get grounded and take a fresh start.
Example: Speaking Out in Anger
If you have spoken to someone in anger, perhaps ask the person if you can both just sit down and breath together for a little while, or walk together in silence, while you come back to your breath and regain your balance. During this time, don’t berate yourself or cultivate negative feelings toward yourself for speaking out in anger. Don’t add anything extra. Just mindfully observe your breath, and perhaps contemplate the real cause of your anger. After some time, you can apologize and tell the person you are with that you care about them, and want to begin anew.
Example: Eating Too Much at Lunch or Dinner
Suppose that you put too much food on your plate, and then eat everything on it. Afterwards your stomach feels too full, and your body feels uncomfortable. In these moments, it doesn’t help to beat yourself up with negative self-talk. Instead, you can sit down, focus on your breathing, and simply acknowledge that you are feeling too full in the present moment. However, you can also note that this feeling is temporary and will pass, and that you’ll have another opportunity to be more skillful at the next mealtime. You can cultivate peace within yourself by focusing on what is wonderful and good in the present moment.
When you lose your balance, on or off the mat... smile, breathe, and then begin again. Let these moments be opportunities for you to cultivate compassion and goodwill towards yourself and the people that you are with.
-- Jason Brown
Jason Ray Brown
Is Yoga an Inherently Balanced Practice?, by Jason Brown